Food to eat on the hoof
The food at sporting events is notoriously unhealthy, so why not make your own snacks to bring to the Dublin Horse Show next week, or to nibble on while watching the action on telly, asks DOMINI KEMP
AS SOMEONE WHO spent most of her youth schlepping around horse shows, I found the notion of coming up with some recipes that one might nibble on during Dublin Horse Show week all rather hilarious. If I am honest about my usual fodder back in those days, the recipes would be for sambos, crisps, bacon butties, chips and fizzy drinks. Food was always eaten on the run, was typically fast and therefore extremely convenient and inevitably cheap.
It is a far cry from what you see when you walk past the tables in the reserved areas on Aga Khan day, where they are sipping bubbles and picking at smoked salmon plates. Horse shows – with the obvious exception of the few held in cities – can often be in the middle of nowhere, so the possibility of eating well is severely limited by what is on the grounds. Chip vans have always been the norm. Some locations would make more of an effort and have a little canteen that was better serviced.
Once or twice, I was industrious enough to get up and make a packed lunch, but this soon fizzled out when an extra 20 minutes sleep at 5am seemed preferable to a homemade lunch.
Sometimes, you’d find the owners of the horses that were competing on the day sensibly packing a picnic to be shared around the boot of a fancy car, parked beside one of the competition arenas. Even better if they packed some foldaway chairs and a little table.
These smartly social folk were always honey to the hungry bees, also known as the riders. Picnic baskets were opened. Carefully wrapped treats were unfolded. Occasionally a bottle of wine was consumed. The offer of good food, couched in tartan blankets and wicker baskets was always too good to pass up.
There was one exception, however, and it’s still a food van I dream about – Polly’s. She used to go to Hickstead Horse Show in the UK and was parked close enough to where the horses were stabled and competitors were sleeping in lorries or tents to ensure she was first port of call for breakfast. Every morning, a queue of sleepy grooms and riders would line up for her fresh, floury baps, filled with soft fried eggs and the crispiest and most delicious bacon you can imagine. It was all suitably greasy but wonderfully fresh and delicious. One was always enough, although greed would urge you to have a second, at which point willpower had to intervene. It’s a far cry from the scotch eggs and ricotta tart on these pages, but at the same time, good food is all about excellent flavour and pleasing textures, whether it’s a bacon butty or piece of seared foie gras on pain d’épices.